She’s a writer, producer, activist, philanthropist, community leader, mother of three and one of the most accomplished women in TV history. Now Emmy Award-winning producer Marta Kauffman is entering the ranks of the documentary world. Best known as the co-creator and executive producer of the hit TV series Friends, Kauffman will join director Roberta Grossman and the nonprofit production company, the Katahdin Foundation, in producing Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh, a feature documentary on the World War II-era poet and diarist who became a soldier, martyr and national heroine in Israel.
“Marta’s participation in the film is very exciting,” says Grossman. “She is someone who elevates every project she touches, and her experience and guidance will only make the film better. I couldn’t dream of a better person to join us in bringing this story to life.”
Prior to her work on Friends, Kauffman co-created and co-executive produced the critically acclaimed series Dream On. She co-created the series The Powers That Be, for Norman Lear, and co-created and served as executive producer on the comedy series Family Album and Veronica’s Closet. She was the executive producer of the WB’s recent series Related, and she and her husband, composer Michael Skloff, also devote a considerable amount of volunteer time to the Jewish community in Los Angeles.
“I strongly believe that Holocaust stories must continue to be told, especially now, when survivors are in their 80s and 90s and still able to provide first-hand accounts,” says Kauffman. “The story of Hannah Senesh captivated me not only because of Hannah’s courage, but also because, at its core, it is an intense and moving mother-daughter story.”
Named for Hannah Senesh’s most famous poem, Blessed Is the Match explores the life and death of the young writer in Palestine in 1943 who volunteered for a mission to rescue Jews in her native Hungary, her mother Catherine among them. Shockingly, it was the only outside rescue mission for Jews during the Holocaust. In 1944, Hannah parachuted behind enemy lines, was captured, imprisoned and ultimately executed by the Nazis. In a cruel twist of fate, her mother witnessed the entire ordeal – first as a prisoner with Hannah and later as her advocate, braving the bombed-out streets of Budapest in a desperate attempt to save her daughter.
“I first read Hannah Senesh’s diary in junior high and was inspired by her courage and touched by her vulnerability,” says Grossman, an award-winning filmmaker who has written and directed over 40 hours of documentary television. “Hannah was a diarist like Anne Frank and a soldier with the single-minded intensity of Joan of Arc. Now that I am a mother closer to Catherine’s age, Catherine’s riveting account of her daughter’s last days adds a layer to a story that already resonated with me deeply.”
The producers have been granted unprecedented access to the Senesh family archive – including hundreds of unpublished letters and nearly 1,300 never-before-seen photos of remarkable quality. They will complete filming in Israel and Hungary this fall and are planning for a theatrical release and a national broadcast on public television in early 2008.